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September 26, 2018

Plan calls for Maine's forest-products industry to grow 40%

Courtesy / Sappi North America
Courtesy / Sappi North America
The wood yard at Sappi's Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, shown before its $25 million upgrade.

Maine's forest-products industry could expand by 40% in the next seven years under a plan unveiled Tuesday by business coalition FOR/Maine.

The Forest Opportunity Roadmap, announced at a news conference in Orono, outlines strategies for increasing the industry's annual economic impact in Maine from $8.5 billion to $12 billion by 2025. They include attracting new investment, national and international marketing and promotion and development of new, eco-friendly plastics and chemical products made of residual materials from traditional wood-manufacturing processes.

"Maine has an incredible, sustainable forest resource … In the past, this resource went primarily to papermaking and saw logs. While these products will remain the backbone, the industry will look much more diverse over the next few years," Patrick Strauch, FOR/Maine co-chairman and executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, said in a news release.

In addition to increasing the industry's economic impact, the plan outlines goals for attracting investment in the state's mill towns, developing the forest-products workforce and sustainably managing wood resources.

The roadmap results from two years of research and strategy development, involving input from industry, local communities, nonprofits and the education sector, according to the release. The initiative has been backed with funding from the federal Economic Development Administration and Department of Agriculture.

The plan's debut precedes a media event planned for Wednesday afternoon by international paper manufacturer Sappi Ltd. at its Somerset Mill in Skowhegan. The event will promote the company's recent $200 million upgrade of the mill's wood room and Paper Machine No. 1, which began last year.

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